It is done. For better or worse, my first attempt at
writing a contemporary action-thriller with
speculative-fiction elements in a foreign language is
complete. Well, the draft script is. The publisher will
look it over and his editor will either throw it back into
my face with corrections, or they'll give up on using pulp
fantasy authors for contemporary settings altogether. I
hope I have spun an entertaining yarn but if I could write
a second Roadside Picnic on command, I'd be a god, not an
author. The Strugatskys' boots are so huge I can't even
reach the top, so we lesser mortals just have to do what
Being a pulp fiction author, violence is never off the
table with me. However, one thing I definitely wanted to
avoid here was gun porn. Novels set in or close to the
universe of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. videogames often read like war
fiction rather than adventure stories and they go to great
lengths in describing the weaponry being used. I wanted to
approach the subject more like an agent novel would. It's
a pistol! It's an assault rifle! It's a pump-action
shotgun! Which assault rifle? Don't know! Don't care! It
makes holes in people! In just one instance have I
specifically described the weapon as an old and battered
Kalashnikov, since I wanted to convey the idea of a weapon
that has been thrown together from parts of other AK-47s
that have seen action in African conflicts since the
Another thing I toyed with, and this something which the
hardcore genre fans might never forgive me, is the double
meaning of "stalker" in our culture. I won't go into
specifics, so read and learn, it's all there in black and
Hmm, I'd better stop my post-completion analysis before I
spoil something. However, writing about it, just this
little, did wonders for my post-completion angst. At my
age you are supposed to be thick-skinned but I don't
really take criticism all that well. While shooting down
mathematically challenged idiots trying to poke holes in
the Praedor RPG rules is at best cathartic, there is no
real way to fight someone who says my fiction is "bad". He
is describing a subjective experience and is entirely
entitled to his opinion of it. There is nothing a sensible
author can do about it but take the bruise to his ego and
see if something can be learned from it.
My ego just bruises a too easily for my own good.
So, what to do with this sudden increase of spare time?
I've been juggling three things. Firstly, there is this
idea for a Praedor novel I want to try out. The
only problem is that I've never written a novel without a
pre-existing publishing contract before. If completed, the
Praedor novel would probably end up being
published by Burger Games with sales expectations of a few
hundred copies. Working with Jalava or some other more
established publisher has its perks, especially with
regards to distribution.
Second, I want to return to Mars. The Rovers test
adventure went on a hiatus because of scheduling troubles
and the need to finish the novel. However, I am not done
with Mars yet and the very point of doing test games is
iteration. The setting intrigues me but I just haven't hit
a bullseye with it yet.
Third, Mike wants me to rewrite my Age of Tempest
Ropecon-adventure into a format that would enable a
brain-dead sea urchin to run it (i.e. the same
pre-dictated format used in his game's GM Manual).
Frankly, I am a bit torn about this. On one hand, it is a
very sensible request since his RPG is intended for n00bs.
On the other, I am more of a "throw the n00b into the deep
end and see if he swims" -type of guy and hate
hand-holding. My way of writing adventures is meant to
give the GM ideas on how to approach the described
scenario and yet leave him with enough freedom to bring it
out in his preferred style while applying whatever changes
he deems necessary due to the unspoken strengths and
weaknesses of his players.
In other words, the Old Skool way. Mike is asking me to
break with a hallowed tradition.
There is a fourth item on the proverbial table, by the
way. I've been thinking about the second edition of Miekkamies
a lot and identified a number of paths I could take. The
one thing that is still missing is a decision, or rather,
an overwhelming inspiration that would finally push me on
a path. The game would then grow from there like a rolling
snowball. You saw it happen with Rovers. But it
hasn't happened with Miekkamies yet.
For some reason, I am not really playing videogames right
now. I haven't played anything with any real passion since
I dropped Skyrim. To keep up professionally, I've been
trying out iOS games of all sorts on my iPad mini and even
designed a few myself but... meh. Right now, I just want
Sorry for the gap. I was busy getting the script for
Stalker novel finished and finally completed the epilogue
on May 10th, at 1.00 am in the morning. Those of you
reading my Facebook entries have been treated to
statistics, like the word and character counts all through
the development. Now that I am editing the bloody thing
the word count is going to go down but will probably end
up somewhere around 83000. I am personally more interested
in the character count. Markku Jalava once told me that a
book begins at 150000 characters. Even post-edit, the
Stalker novel will have over 450000 characters, which is
three times the minimum limit. Of course, none of this has
anything to do with the book being any good or not but I
love these numbers because it makes me easy to quantify my
I am on the roll, kind of. While I managed to kick my Skyrim
habit, I haven't really played anything else since. I want
to keep writing instead and once I have the Stalker novel
out of the way, I am moving onto a Praedor novel and write
out the story that a character created by the young
daughter of one of my players inspired. There are no
promises and there is no publisher. I suspect Burger Games
will be publishing this one.
Speaking of Praedor, one of the first Praedor fans ever,
Erkka Leppänen, collected an anthology of Praedor-themed
short stories called Kirotun Maan Kulkijat,
published by Osuuskumma. If you know Finnish and like
pulp-fantasy, you should seriously get it.
Just click the image and it'll send you to the store page.
I'd love to chat more about Praedor and especially about
my enthusiasm for Verivartio campaign.
Unfortunately we are still waiting for the next comic
album and until that comes out, anything I could tell you
about it is a potential spoiler. So the waiting the
continues, even as the campaign, originally intended as
playtesting for witchcraft and a new setting focus area,
became 2 years old this April. Verivartio will be
one of those immemorable mega-campaigns that are the
reason I am doing this. The others are Elric, Taiga,
Hansa I-III, Murharyhmä I, and Loot'Em,
entailing years and years of epic adventure.
While I am stuck in Old Skool Roleplaying (OKR) and proud
of it, Old School Renaissance (OSR) is marching on and I
am counting Mike's Myrskyn Sankarit into that
category as well. He has a
crowdfunding project at Indiegogo to have the
game translated under the title Age of Tempest. It's
a mixed bag and you can find my review of the Finnish
language original from here.
Still, kudos to Mike for effort, marketing genius and
being the photogenic face of the Finnish RPG writing.
Bringing RPGs back into department stores was a huge feat
no matter what the game is like.
Encouraged by my experiences with Rovers (which I
should continue as soon as I finish editing my book), I
made a PDF of the Praedor 1.1. rulebook and tried it out
on my new iPad Mini. Works like a charm and while the
covers suffered a little in the conversion (some blur),
the beef, which is the black-and-white interior, is crisp
and readable. I'll be having my iPad around when I run
Praedor in the future. It's an non-linked facsimile of the
physical book but search functions and quick browsing make
it surprisingly nifty to use even now.
Veteran Praedor fans have been asking for the PDF version
to be put on sale and I'd be happy to oblige. However,
finding a webstore for a Finnish-language PDF has been
surprisingly difficult. It is against the rules to put it
up on drivethrurpg or lulu.com. I did try payhip.com but
none of the test buyers were able to complete the paypal
payment process, so I eventually took it down from there
as well. I have emailed their customer service for more
information on what to do with the payment systems since
my PayPal account is otherwise working fine. They haven't
responded and my search for a distribution platform
Roving With Rovers
The most recent Rovers session. Hmm.
The point of test campaigns is to test things out.
Failure is a perfectly acceptable outcome as long as it is
acted upon. I had two goals for the adventure; testing the
rule system and testing the setting. The result for both
is a resounding "meh". Sure, the players seemed to be
enjoying themselves but they would, wouldn't they? In any
case, they are not what is on trial here.
Rule-wise, the probability curves on the dice are too
steep even with explosive dice and I haven't been able to
apply the difficulty levels as intuitively as I had
planned. It appears that the 5-step difficulty hierarchy
isn't working. The jury is still out on profiles vs.
skills. They worked great in FLOW but so far, especially
with the substitution rule (if you don't have an exact
match you can try something close to it with a one die
penalty) I am less than impressed with them here. I was
well aware that some profiles would be almost universally
acceptable as close matches but it didn't seem like such a
problem on paper. Now in practise... I don't know.
If that's all vague, what I do know for a fact is that
the selection of stats I chose for the game is flat out
wrong. I am basically calling for Move, Sense and Mind all
the time which begs the question why don't I just have
those three stats and then a bunch of loosely defined
traits that would add +1 to the stat in question when they
apply? Why not indeed? Except that if I am going to toss
the current dice mechanic anyway...
The setting is another problem. I just haven't been able
to bring it life the way I want to. Somehow I always feel
like I don't know enough about it and hence the Otherwere,
my ability to conjure lively sceneries on the fly, doesn't
really happen. I feel like I'm trying to start a car on a
cold winter morning with a run-down battery. So far, I've
had three people proposing major changes to the setting,
some more forcefully than others. I have a sneaking
suspicion that they all were right and I was
wrong. My current Mars is a much too barren wasteland and
the endless stretches of nothing seep into the mind of the
gamemaster, numbing it. Like playing on Arrakis without
the worms and the Fremen. The worms
would probably liven it up the setting quite a bit.
Well, I owe it to my players to finish the test adventure
with honor. Then they shall depart from Mars and hand the
planet back to the Crucible of Creation. It may re-emerge
from there one day.
The Secret Of Life
the far side of the door it looked as if time had
stopped. Although stained with rust or shrouded in
dusty cobwebs, everything was the way it had been when
the last of the soldiers had left. There were tables
laden with yellowed maps and wooden chairs arranged
around them by rank and comfort. There were
wood-paneled cubicles for clerks with typing machines
and field telephones turning grey with dust. He could
see a telephone switchboard in the far corner, right
next to an old radio transmitter. The headphones were
still on the table as if they had been casually
dropped there just an hour ago. Up on the wall was a
framed picture of Adolf Hitler himself. Somebody had
put a bullet hole in the middle of it. Probably a
parting gift from somebody when the base had been
abandoned after Germany's capitulation.
I originally intended to continue this blog on some
commercial blogging service such as Blogger. However, I
recognized early on how lazy I am and just couldn't be arsed
to do the site transition this month, so this html-edited
blog will stay up for now. Not that I ever have much of
anything to say, really. And that is exactly the problem I
have with my Twitter account. I am not interested in
140-character haikus of your life and my own life isn't
interesting enough to generate tabloid headlines every few
hours. Blogging, roughly once a week, is the best I can do.
And there has been a four-week gap in that.
Well, shit, Spring 2014.
I can't wait until I can start making daily bicycle rides
again, perhaps even tomorrow. This year my plan to use
freelancing for downshifting seems to be working much better
than last year and I am kind of looking forward to it. A
year mostly out of the hamster wheel... in our society, who
doesn't dream of such a thing? Besides, I have a wall full
of Postcards from Death from this winter. I was really sick
for close to three months and can still feel the scars
whenever I draw breath. And then there was that... that thing
they dug out of my skull. Not being able to breathe properly
kind of brings mortality home but having your entire skull
shake as the surgeon cuts into your upper jaw with a power
saw does a pretty good job at it as well.
So, I am going to treat this year like a list of "things to
do before I die, with a reasonable budget". So far I have
lined up finishing the Stalker novel in April, writing
another novel by December, visiting Worldcon and Eurocon in
August and Istanbul in October just for the heck of it
(okay, Leena goes to the IGF conference while I am pursuing
one of my Personal Conan Moments in the Old Constantinople).
Also a North Finland tour culminating in Finncon in July is
a strong possibility and I keep my options open for visiting
York again in June. Last time around North England was
absolutely tropical. Maybe this time I can actually go walk
the city walls without dropping from heat exhaustion.
That second novel for this year would be an interesting
development. I have long had this idea of a long adventure
story set in Jaconia and the Verivartio troupe is playing
through the main themes right now. However, delays with the
next Praedor comic have put releasing any of that on
indefinite hold. But recently, I've also had this other
nagging Praedor inspiration. The young daughter of one of my
Verivartio players made herself a pretty damn excellently
thought-out Praedor character and I've been thinking about
her story potential ever since then. Then, during one night
when coughing and sneezing kept me awake, the whole story
came to me, combining straight-up fiction and elements from
more than one of the great Praedor roleplaying campaigns
I've had. So, a word of warning to my old Praedor players:
If I can actually finish it and you end up reading it,
having some characters or events feel eerily familiar may
not be entirely coincidental.
I've never written anything with an adolescent protagonist.
Vanha Koira is way past 50 and Jacob Moncke is clearly past
40. My new protagonist would probably be 13. So, is this
youth literature? In Finland, fantasy adventures usually
fall into that genre, especially if they have young
characters. Well, I wouldn't be aiming for that particular
niche but as for family friendliness, I can promise I
wouldn't write anything that Edgar Rice Burroughs wouldn't
After all, Tarzan of the Apes is in the youth
literature section of the library, isn't it?